Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood

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This child of mine
is more religion than I've ever had,
though I was ushered to church
three hours each Sunday year round
and twice a week during Advent and Lent.

This I can't get away from -- wouldn't want to.
The first time I went without him,
I felt more than naked, rushed back
up the mountain, didn't leave again
for at least a year, my mind coming back
over and over to its beloved object,
my heart repenting all its lapses --
every moment I've snuck to read
or write or struggle against my day.
It repents as soon as he's asleep
in my arms and I press my hands
against his body, willing the overflow
of affection through his tissue, into his heart.

Of what does devotion consist, if not of this,
and of squatting on the floor in front of the toilet,
and of allowing him to ride me, a hands-and-knees horse,
and of correcting without display
his every irregular verb gone awry?

I am lucky: my conscience is clear most days,
cleared over and over by him, and yet it is not enough.
A cougar slopes by our window in broad daylight,
a tawny seraphim, announcing

you must hold your child closer, pay attention
closer, closer by this much.

Elizabeth Schott has a doctorate in art history from UC Berkeley and taught art history and writing for 12 years at Berkeley, USC, and UCSB. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous literary journals including North American Review, South Carolina Review, California Quarterly, Illuminations, and several anthologies. She is mama to her four-year-old son, works as a Poet in the Schools, and writes for the Santa Barbara Independent.

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